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# How You Improve On The GMAT

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Re: How You Improve On The GMAT [#permalink]
ReedArnoldMPREP
We're glad that you're in gmatclub. Now, we got one more supporter for our study in gmatclub! We hope you'll be continuously supporting us! Thanks...
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Re: How You Improve On The GMAT [#permalink]
Thank you for this topic! I found it through another topic:
https://gmatclub.com/forum/the-getting- ... 66004.html
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Re: How You Improve On The GMAT [#permalink]
ReedArnoldMPREP wrote:
How You Improve On The GMAT

Just wanted to take a second to formally write down something I've thought about in the last several months, regarding how one 'improves' the GMAT.

It's a question that you might not have asked yourself, but it's a very fundamental question. What does it mean to 'get better' at the test? "Getting a higher score" is the result of getting better, but it's not *what* gets better. "Answering more questions correctly" is another result of getting better... But it's not *what gets better*.

As far as I can tell, there are five ways one can improve on the GMAT. They are:

1). Learn a new concept/rule/formula
3). Master a strategy
4). Inculcate good habits
5). Notice inference opportunities

There is definitely some overlap, here. But in general, if you're getting 'better' at the GMAT, it's due to one (or, likely, several) improvements in these area. Let's specify what I mean by these.

Learn a new concept/rule/formula:

There are many concepts, rules, and formulas--grammatical, logical, and mathematic--that the GMAT tests frequently. You have to memorize at least the major ones. How primes and divisibility work, how common quadratics can be written, what modifiers describe based on their type and placement--the list is long! So learning concepts is probably the first and most obvious way to improve a GMAT score--but, if I'm being honest, maybe (in the end) the least important.

This may surprise you. But I think it's true. And if you think about it, I suspect you'll agree. Go over the questions you miss--how often is it really because you didn't 'know' a rule? Of course, it happens, but I could, for instance, point you to this question: https://gmatclub.com/forum/in-the-figure-shown-above-line-segment-qr-has-length-12-and-rectangl-168430.html

--and tell you what you already know: "the formula for a rectangle is Base*Height." Fantastic... But that still isn't an easy question. You know singular subjects need singular verbs, and yet I see students all the time make a subject/verb error on this question: https://gmatclub.com/forum/last-week-local-shrimpers-held-a-news-conference-to-take-some-credit-76039.html

Furthermore, the GMAT is very good at creating questions whose 'rule' is so rarely tested you're likely not to have seen it. When I first took the GMAT, I got a question that asked about the units digit of a number like 3^183. Today, having taught the GMAT for some time, I know the 'rules' for a question like this easily. But then? mid-test? I had no idea. Yet, I was able to get this question using a time-tested GMAT strategy (namely, writing out the first few powers of 3 and looking for a pattern. I realized the units digits of powers of 3 cycle through 3-9-7-1. From there, I needed to figure out where '183' landed).

Again, of course you have to know many rules and formulas. And sure, as your score rises, you'll find harder and more obscure rules to learn (e.g. "The number of total factors in a number can be found by breaking down to prime factors, adding one to each exponent, and multiplying.") But I maintain that, for many students--after enough study--the 'rules' aren't what keeps them from getting the score they want.

Flash cards are great for learning the rules. But make sure that's not all your studying. Give due diligence to the other four ways one can improve on the GMAT.

The "mechanics" are the actual processes of grinding through information. How fast and accurate is your arithmetic, for example? How well can you 'solve for x' once an equation is set up? How accurately do you interpret the meaning of a sentence? Or pick apart a sentence's, argument's, or passage's structure? Or translate english to math? This is the 'nuts and bolts' part of the test, I'd say.

Look to make your mechanics more efficient, organized, and correct. How might someone do the arithmetic so that it's a little bit faster? (e.g. what's 792/8? You could do long division, or you could say 792/8 = (800 - 8)/8 = 100 - 1 = 99. It's probably faster, easier, and less likely to end in a mistake doing that method than long division). What does someone notice to get that SC question right in 45 seconds? (I guarantee you that person isn't reading every word, top to bottom left to right).

One of the most difficult--but important--mechanics to improve is how you read and interpret language. We've all read that sentence on the GMAT--in quant and verbal--that makes us go narrow our eyes, open our mouths in disgust, and think, "what?" Well, picking that sentence apart to derive meaning is a mechanical process that can be practiced.

Master a Strategy

There are several different strategies one can master on the test. In quant, you could do algebra (way overemphasized by students, in my experience), or you could plug in answers. Sometimes you can choose your own values or test cases. You can estimate. You might organize the information in a table, chart, or image. In Critical Reasoning, dissecting an argument so you the right answer jumps out easily OR so that you can easily identify wrong answers (...or both at once!) are different but useful strategies to master.

You want a nice, full toolkit of strategies you can draw from. Not one. When you study a question, it's best to practice as many strategies as you can think of on it, rather than just find one way and be done with it. Sure, one strategy might work best on that problem, but on different problems another strategy might be best. It's a good idea to practice and master as many as you can.

Inculcate Good Habits

Good habits are habits that help minimize mistakes you shouldn't make--including mistakes like 'spending way too much time on a problem.'

These are things like knowing when to bail, writing down every given, specifying what is asked. There's some subjectivity to this--some people make more mistakes in arithmetic than others, so they should inculcate a habit of checking their arithmetic more frequently. Some people are more prone to misread a question, so they should inculcate a habit of rereading a question twice (or more) before proceeding, with the explicit intention of catching any mistakes they might have made. As you study, consider what habits you need to minimize avoidable mistakes.

Notice Inference Opportunities

In many ways, this is a test of inferences. Seeing that some piece of information logically implies (...or doesn't) some other piece of information is a crucial skill. You want to notice and collect moments where you can infer something that must be true, even though it's not officially told. Some simple examples: "If Distance = 20 and Rate = 5, Time = 4." "If 65% of employees are not managers, 35% of employees are managers."

But you can also notice things like:

--If a sentence has 'both,' it must have an 'and,' and these words must join two similar words."

--If this author's conclusion is right, this author must assume [x], because if [x] is not true the conclusion is false.

--If an RC passage tells you "All flick flacks make purpulation granulation," and later on that "The most recent flick flack discovered is the briclatoroium," you can infer that a briclatorium makes purpulation granulation.

Yes, in order to make a lot of inferences on the test, you'll need some of those concepts/rules/formulas from before! But often the difficulty is seeing when and where to apply them (and when and where not to) and knowing how to correctly (see: 'mechanics'). One of the biggest things to develop is a psychology and a mindset that is constantly on the hunt for an inference.

With inferences, there are two basic mistakes we make. We make an inference when we shouldn't (we bring in an assumption; we misinterpret what is given; we make up a rule; etc.) or we don't make an inference when we should (we don't know a rule, or, more likely, don't see the chance to apply it; we misinterpreted information in such a way that it gets us stuck (see: 'mechanics'); we don't write down enough so that we see the chance to make an inference (see: 'habits' and 'strategy')).

In general, when you miss a problem, one of the first things you should look for is where an inference happened that shouldn't have (and why you made it), or, where did you NOT see the chance to make an inference, and what would have helped you make it?

Conclusion
There's obviously a lot of overlap between these. In order to make an inference, you often need the rule and the right mechanics to use the rule right. Good strategies can help organize information such that the inference is easier to 'see,' and good habits minimize mistakes in making the inferences.

But in general, if you're improving on this test, it must be by improving in these five ways. So every question you review, you should run through the list. Specify which aspect of the problem gave you the most trouble. Was it conceptual? Mechanical? Strategic? Would a new habit have helped? What inferences did you make? Should you have made? Should you not have made?